Three new books, Go Optimizations 101, Go Details & Tips 101 and Go Generics 101 are published now. It is most cost-effective to buy all of them through this book bundle in the Leanpub book store.

Please follow Go 101 Twitter account @Go100and1 to get latest news of Go 101 books/articles/apps/libraries.

Basic Types and Basic Value Literals

Types can be viewed as value templates, and values can be viewed as type instances. This article will introduce the built-in basic types and their value literals in Go. Composite types will not get introduced in this article.

Built-in Basic Types in Go

Go supports following built-in basic types:

Each of the 17 built-in basic types belongs to one different kind of type in Go. We can use the above built-in types in code without importing any packages, though all the names of these types are non-exported identifiers.

15 of the 17 built-in basic types are numeric types. Numeric types include integer types, floating-point types and complex types.

Go also support two built-in type aliases,

The integer types whose names starting with an u are unsigned types. Values of unsigned types are always non-negative. The number in the name of a type means how many binary bits a value of the type will occupy in memory at run time. For example, every value of the uint8 occupies 8 bits in memory. So the largest uint8 value is 255 (28-1), the largest int8 value is 127 (27-1), and the smallest int8 value is -128 (-27).

If a value occupies N bits in memory, we say the size of the value is N bits. The sizes of all values of a type are always the same, so value sizes are often called as type sizes.

We often measure the size of a value based on the number of bytes it occupies in memory. One byte contains 8 bits. So the size of the uint32 type is four bytes.

The size of uintptr, int and uint values n memory are implementation-specific. Generally, The size of int and uint values are 4 on 32-bit architectures, and 8 on 64-bit architectures. The size of uintptr value must be large enough to store the uninterpreted bits of any memory address.

The real and imaginary parts of a complex64 value are both float32 values, and the real and imaginary parts of a complex128 value are both float64 values.

In memory, all floating-point numeric values in Go are stored in IEEE-754 format.

A boolean value represents a truth. There are only two possible boolean values in memory, they are denoted by the two predeclared named constants, false and true. Name constants will be introduced in the next article.

In logic, a string value denotes a piece of text. In memory, a string value stores a sequence of bytes, which is the UTF-8 encoding representation of the piece of text denoted by the string value. We can learn more facts on strings from the article strings in Go later.

Although there is only one built-in type for each of boolean and string types, we can define custom boolean and string types for the built-in boolean and string types. So there can be many boolean and string types. The same is for any kinds of numeric types. The following are some type declaration examples. In these declarations, the word type is a keyword.
/* Some type definition declarations */

// status and bool are two different types.
type status bool
// MyString and string are two different types.
type MyString string
// Id and uint64 are two different types.
type Id uint64
// real and float32 are two different types.
type real float32

/* Some type alias declarations */

// boolean and bool denote the same type.
type boolean = bool
// Text and string denote the same type.
type Text = string
// U8, uint8 and byte denote the same type.
type U8 = uint8
// char, rune and int32 denote the same type.
type char = rune

We can call the custom real type defined above and the built-in float32 type both as float32 types. Note, the second float32 word in the last sentence is a general reference, whereas the first one is a specified reference. Similarly, MyString and string are both string types, status and bool are both bool types, etc.

We can learn more on custom types in the article Go type system overview later.

Zero Values

Each type has a zero value. The zero value of a type can be viewed as the default value of the type.

Basic Value Literals

A literal of a value is a text representation of the value in code. A value may have many literals. The literals denoting values of basic types are called basic value literals.

Boolean value literals

Go specification doesn't define boolean literals. However, in general programming, we can view the two predeclared identifiers, false and true, as boolean literals. But we should know that the two are not literals in the strict sense.

As mentioned above, zero values of boolean types are denoted with the predeclared false constant.

Integer value literals

There are four integer value literal forms, the decimal (base 10) form, the octal (base 8) form, the hex (base 16) form and the binary form (base 2). For example, the following four integer literals all denote 15 in decimal.
0xF // the hex form (starts with a "0x" or "0X")

017 // the octal form (starts with a "0", "0o" or "0O")

0b1111 // the binary form (starts with a "0b" or "0B")

15 // the decimal form (starts without a "0")

(Note: the binary form and the octal from starting with 0o or 0O are supported since Go 1.13.)

The following program will print two true texts.
package main

func main() {
	println(15 == 017) // true
	println(15 == 0xF) // true

Note, the two == are the equal-to comparison operator, which will be introduced in common operators.

Generally, zero values of integer types are denoted as 0 in literal, though there are many other legal literals for integer zero values, such as 00 and 0x0. In fact, the zero value literals introduced in the current article for other kinds of numeric types can also represent the zero value of any integer type.

Floating-point value literals

A decimal floating-point value literal may contain a decimal integer part, a decimal point, a decimal fractional part, and an integer exponent part (10-based). Such an integer exponent part starts with a letter e or E and suffixes with a decimal integer literal (xEn is equivalent to x is multiplied by 10n, and xE-n is equivalent to x is divided by 10n). Some examples:
01.23 // == 1.23
// An "e" or "E" starts the exponent part (10-based).
1.23e2  // == 123.0
123E2   // == 12300.0
123.E+2 // == 12300.0
1e-1    // == 0.1
.1e0    // == 0.1
0010e-2 // == 0.1
0e+5    // == 0.0
Since Go 1.13, Go also supports another floating point literal form: hexadecimal floating point literal form. The followings are some legal hexadecimal floating point literals:
0x1p-2     // == 1.0/4 = 0.25
0x2.p10    // == 2.0 * 1024 == 2048.0
0x1.Fp+0   // == 1+15.0/16 == 1.9375
0X.8p1     // == 8.0/16 * 2 == 1.0
0X1FFFP-16 // == 0.1249847412109375

However, the following ones are illegal:
0x.p1    // mantissa has no digits
1p-2     // p exponent requires hexadecimal mantissa
0x1.5e-2 // hexadecimal mantissa requires p exponent

Note: the following literal is legal, but it is not a floating point literal. It is a subtraction arithmetic expression actually. The e in it means 14 in decimal. 0x15e is a hex integer literal, - is the subtraction operator, and 2 is a decimal integer literal. (Arithmetic operators will be introduced in the article common operators.)
0x15e-2 // == 0x15e - 2 // a subtraction expression

The standard literals for zero value of floating-point types are 0.0, though there are many other legal literals, such as 0., .0, 0e0, 0x0p0, etc. In fact, the zero value literals introduced in the current article for other kinds of numeric types can also represent the zero value of any floating-point type.

Imaginary value literals

An imaginary literal consists of a floating-point or integer literal and a lower-case letter i. Examples:
0123i   // == 123i (for backward-compatibility. See below.)
1.23E2i // == 123i
011i   // == 11i (for backward-compatibility. See below.)
00011i // == 11i (for backward-compatibility. See below.)
// The following lines only compile okay since Go 1.13.
0o11i    // == 9i
0x11i    // == 17i
0b11i    // == 3i
0X.8p-0i // == 0.5i

Note, before Go 1.13, in an imaginary literal, the letter i can only be prefixed with a floating-point literal. To be compatible with the older versions, since Go 1.13, the integer literals appearing as octal integer forms not starting with 0o and 0O are still viewed as floating-point literals, such as 011i, 0123i and 00011i in the above example.

Imaginary literals are used to represent the imaginary parts of complex values. Here are some literals to denote complex values:
1 + 2i       // == 1.0 + 2.0i
1. - .1i     // == 1.0 + -0.1i
1.23i - 7.89 // == -7.89 + 1.23i
1.23i        // == 0.0 + 1.23i

The standard literals for zero values of complex types are 0.0+0.0i, though there are many other legal literals, such as 0i, .0i, 0+0i, etc. In fact, the zero value literals introduced in the current article for other kinds of numeric types can also represent the zero value of any complex type.

Use _ in numeric literals for better readability

Since Go 1.13, underscores _ can appear in integer, floating-point and imaginary literals as digit separators to enhance code readability. But please note, in a numeric literal, Some legal and illegal numeric literals which contain underscores:
// Legal ones:
6_9          // == 69
0_33_77_22   // == 0337722
0x_Bad_Face  // == 0xBadFace
0X_1F_FFP-16 // == 0X1FFFP-16
0b1011_0111 + 0xA_B.Fp2i

// Illegal ones:
_69        // _ can't appear as the first character
69_        // _ can't appear as the last character
6__9       // one side of _ is a illegal character
0_xBadFace // "x" is not a legal octal digit
1_.5       // "." is not a legal octal digit
1._5       // "." is not a legal octal digit

Rune value literals

Rune types, including custom defined rune types and the built-in rune type (a.k.a., int32 type), are special integer types, so all rune values can be denoted by the integer literals introduced above. On the other hand, many values of all kinds of integer types can also be represented by rune literals introduced below in the current subsection.

A rune value is intended to store a Unicode code point. Generally, we can view a code point as a Unicode character, but we should know that some Unicode characters are composed of more than one code points each.

A rune literal is expressed as one or more characters enclosed in a pair of quotes. The enclosed characters denote one Unicode code point value. There are some minor variants of the rune literal form. The most popular form of rune literals is just to enclose the characters denoted by rune values between two single quotes. For example
'a' // an English character
'众' // a Chinese character
The following rune literal variants are equivalent to 'a' (the Unicode value of character a is 97).
// 141 is the octal representation of decimal number 97.
// 61 is the hex representation of decimal number 97.

Please note, \ must be followed by exactly three octal digits to represent a byte value, \x must be followed by exactly two hex digits to represent a byte value, \u must be followed by exactly four hex digits to represent a rune value, and \U must be followed by exactly eight hex digits to represent a rune value. Each such octal or hex digit sequence must represent a legal Unicode code point, otherwise, it fails to compile.

The following program will print 7 true texts.
package main

func main() {
	println('a' == 97)
	println('a' == '\141')
	println('a' == '\x61')
	println('a' == '\u0061')
	println('a' == '\U00000061')
	println(0x61 == '\x61')
	println('\u4f17' == '众')

In fact, the four variant rune literal forms just mentioned are rarely used for rune values in practice. They are occasionally used in interpreted string literals (see the next subsection for details).

If a rune literal is composed by two characters (not including the two quotes), the first one is the character \ and the second one is not a digital character, x, u and U, then the two successive characters will be escaped as one special character. The possible character pairs to be escaped are:
\a   (Unicode value 0x07) alert or bell
\b   (Unicode value 0x08) backspace
\f   (Unicode value 0x0C) form feed
\n   (Unicode value 0x0A) line feed or newline
\r   (Unicode value 0x0D) carriage return
\t   (Unicode value 0x09) horizontal tab
\v   (Unicode value 0x0b) vertical tab
\\   (Unicode value 0x5c) backslash
\'   (Unicode value 0x27) single quote

\n is the most used escape character pair.

An example:
    println('\n') // 10
    println('\r') // 13
    println('\'') // 39

    println('\n' == 10)     // true
    println('\n' == '\x0A') // true

There are many literals which can denote the zero values of rune types, such as '\000', '\x00', '\u0000', etc. In fact, we can also use any numeric literal introduced above to represent the values of rune types, such as 0, 0x0, 0.0, 0e0, 0i, etc.

String value literals

String values in Go are UTF-8 encoded. In fact, all Go source files must be UTF-8 encoding compatible.

There are two forms of string value literals, interpreted string literal (double quotes form) and raw string literal (back quotes form). For example, the following two string literals are equivalent:
// The interpreted form.

// The raw form.

In the above interpreted string literal, each \n character pair will be escaped as one newline character, and each \" character pair will be escaped as one double quote character. Most of such escape character pairs are the same as the escape character pairs used in rune literals introduced above, except that \" is only legal in interpreted string literals and \` is only legal in rune literals.

The character sequence of \, \x, \u and \U followed by several octal or hex digits introduced in the last section can also be used in interpreted string literals.
// The following interpreted string literals are equivalent.

// The following interpreted string literals are equivalent.
      // The Unicode of 众 is 4f17, which is
      // UTF-8 encoded as three bytes: e4 bc 97.
      // The Unicode of 人 is 4eba, which is
      // UTF-8 encoded as three bytes: e4 ba ba.

Please note that each English character (code point) is represented with one byte, but each Chinese character (code point) is represented with three bytes.

In a raw string literal, no character sequences will be escaped. The back quote character is not allowed to appear in a raw string literal. To get better cross-platform compatibility, carriage return characters (Unicode code point 0x0D) inside raw string literals will be discarded.

Zero values of string types can be denoted as "" or `` in literal.

Representability of Basic Numeric Value Literals

A numeric literal can be used to represent as an integer value only if it needn't be rounded. For example, 1.23e2 can represent as values of any basic integer types, but 1.23 can't represent as values of any basic integer types. Rounding is allowed when using a numeric literal to represent a non-integer basic numeric values.

Each basic numeric type has a representable value range. So, if a literal overflows the value range of a type, then the literal is not representable as values of the type.

Some examples:
The Literal Types Which Values the Literal Can Represent
256 All basic numeric types except int8 and uint8 types.
255 All basic numeric types except int8 types.
-123 All basic numeric types except the unsigned ones.
123 All basic numeric types.
1.23 All basic floating-point and complex numeric types.
(16 zeros)
3.5e38 All basic floating-point and complex numeric types except float32 and complex64 types.
1+2i All basic complex numeric types.
2e+308 None basic types.


The Go 101 project is hosted on Github. Welcome to improve Go 101 articles by submitting corrections for all kinds of mistakes, such as typos, grammar errors, wording inaccuracies, description flaws, code bugs and broken links.

If you would like to learn some Go details and facts every serveral days, please follow Go 101's official Twitter account @go100and1 or join Go 101 slack channels.

The digital versions of this book are available at the following places:
Tapir, the author of Go 101, has been on writing the Go 101 series books and maintaining the website since 2016 July. New contents will be continually added to the book and the website from time to time. Tapir is also an indie game developer. You can also support Go 101 by playing Tapir's games (made for both Android and iPhone/iPad):
Individual donations via PayPal are also welcome.